Many of us have observed that today’s workplace is moving more and more towards remote work, working ‘outside the office’. As a result, some of Australia’s largest businesses are making virtual teams and ‘anywhere working’ work. How are they making it work?
In this blog, we have pulled together reports, case studies and interviews held with some of Australia’s leading flexible work employers, who use virtual teams and ‘anywhere working’ as a business tool. We highlight a few lessons that can be learned about how to implement virtual teams effectively.
Telstra’s new All Roles Flex program, was established after a three-month trial in the customer sales and service department from April to July 2013. CEO David Thodey has indicated that Telstra introduced the programme to encourage more women to apply. Telstra wants to support family friendly practices and to reduce the organisation’s environmental impact. Telstra is benefiting from a more inclusive culture, greater representation of women and a greater focus on performance. Staff are also working longer hours.
Lesson learned: Telstra will need to monitor work hours closely for the impact of telework on work/life balance. The long-term impact of longer hours is often an unsustainable arrangement that is counter-productive.
Medibank is one of Australia’s premier health insurance and health care providers. Nearly 2000 of Medibank’s workers deliver telephone and video health consultations from their home, including 80% of nurses who work entirely from home. Medibank’s primary reason for introducing its work at home program was to attract clinical staff in an industry with high turnover. Medibank is also enjoying increased productivity, reduced costs and better workforce retention. 80% of its employees report greater engagement.
Ilona Charles, Group Executive of People & Culture, says that “Medibank has found that staff who have the flexibility to telework, whether full-time or part-time, are better able to strike a favourable balance between their working and family lives and reduce travel time and expenses”. At Medibank, managers contact employees once a day and they have a ‘hands-on’ monitoring arrangement.
Lesson learned: If a ‘hands-on’ monitoring arrangement equals draconian micro-management, Medibank could be paying a premium by undermining trust. The best type of monitoring is one that focuses on establishing and monitoring agreed work outcomes.
The ABC requires its managers to seriously consider any request for part-time work or other varied work arrangements and works to ensure diversity strategies are embedded throughout the organisation. The ABC has found that flexible work arrangements can save money, for example in retention and retraining costs.
Lesson learned: Two important elements of an effective virtual team strategy are highlighted in the ABC’s story: managers take requests for virtual working arrangements seriously and planners take into account the managerial challenges presented.